With something like reckless abandon the building of New Zealand homes, shops and offices have borrowed liberally from every nation, adapting and adopting a bit here and a bit there in the belief that building in this way is expressive of one of our most vaunted national characteristics—individuality. Perhaps, after all, it is—and perhaps our national style of building at one time really was a sort of architectural cross-word puzzle. That this is less likely to be so today than say 20 or 30 years ago, is due largely to there having arisen a new generation of architects who are prepared to take their interest seriously as an art. And as an art, architecture is a combination of the art of living, and the art of compromise. For when all is said and done, part of the raw materials with which an architect must work is the customer—the people whom he has to see in terms of being housed in his structure, and who, moreover, must be able to see themselves in that way, in that place.
2. The Maori in Contemporary Building Art
The Work of John Scott Hawkes Bay Architect
Among those younger-generation architects whose work is attracting considerable attention—and who should prove of special interest to readers of Te Ao Hou—is John Scott, the centre of whose activities is Hastings, though his work is moving farther afield.
John Scott, of part-Maori extraction, lives at Te Awanga near Hastings, and his work includes, besides family houses, schools, churches and plans for an ambitious Maori Community Centre for Palmerston North.
Mr Scott was educated in Hastings schools and his first job, after leaving school, was shepherding on a Hawke's Bay farm. He was for six months in the R.A.F. and after being demobilised became a student at the School of Architecture at Auckland University which he attended from 1946 to 1950.
Following this, to gain experience, he went building with a group of fellow students. They were fired with the idea that they could build factories more cheaply than anyone else. They did. And their loss was terrific. (“It's taken years to pay it back,” said Mr Scott ruefully.)
For a while he was a member of Group Architects in Auckland, and finally, some six years ago, set up in his own practice in Hawke's Bay.
“How would you describe the aim of your work?” I asked him.
Mr Scott's reply was prompt and practical: “To give the most for the money.”
Pictures are more eloquent than words in describing how much that “most of the money” means, and on these pages, are a number of examples of Mr Scott's work, most of which I have been fortunate enough to inspect.
They range from highly individualised homes put up on very low budgets, to some of the most striking and admired schools in the district.
LOW COST HOUSING
Much of Mr Scott's work has been for people who, with limited finance, have wanted something other than the usual State house plans. Two such houses shown on these pages were built for about the same price as the usual State house, somewhere in the vicinity of £3,000.
Such work represents a challenge, says Mr Scott for the planner must make every move count in conserving the precious pennies. And there isn't, of course, much in it for the architect. A plan may take six weeks to draw up, and an architect's task is by no means finished when that is done.
He has to supervise in the purchase of materials and tries to spend as much time as he can on the site while building is in progress. Often he can see better ways of doing things while the building is going up and is often required to help solve problems as they arise.
Both of the lower cost houses shown here have been built on a solid concrete slab instead of the conventional building piles.
Mr Scott claims that building houses for people makes of one something of a psychologist.
“In the first place, one is aiming to correlate one's own beliefs and aesthetic approach to the real needs of other people. This means you've got to find out a lot about them.”
He will spend quite a lot of time in discussion and in merely getting beneath the surface of people before anything goes on the drawing board.
“The best clients are people of about fifty years of age,” he says. “Younger people are more troublesome because they take too much notice of what everybody else has got—so they want it too —regardless of whether they've got the money to pay for it.”
Older people not only listen to other opinions—they are mellower in their approach to life and
These views are of St Patrick's School for Girls, Marewa, Napier, built to accommodate 200 pupils in four large classrooms. Two of the classrooms are suspended above ground level—the space beneath being used for bicycle sheds, washrooms, and a sheltered playing area for wet weather.
The unusual structural principle of St Patrick's school is based on the scissors truss to give lateral bracing, and alternate slopes have been roofed. The appearance of the school contrasts with the typical State developed area in which it is situated. Top: Part of the courtyard looking down into the staff entrance. As the illustrations show, the building offers interest from all angles and viewpoints—there is continual delight to be found in the experience of turning a corner. Above: Another view of the courtyard showing sheltered play area.
House at Havelock North built for Mr and Mrs Graham; area 1,100 square feet. This house breaks away from many of the stereotypes in lower-cost housing. Both this and the house at left, built for Mr and Mrs J. Molloy, Hastings, cost no more than the average State house.
I asked Mr Scott whether he used Maori motifs and influences in his plans.
He has not often used Maori decoration for interior panelling, but on several occasions he has found the Maori features useful and has adapted them to the European requirements. (See the centre photograph of St. Patrick's School.)
He regards the Japanese and Scandinavians as among the most consistently good house-builders.
HOUSING IN NEW ZEALAND
“There can be no doubt that the standard of housing in New Zealand is good—much better than it was thirty or forty years ago,” says Mr Scott.
“The norm in New Zealand housing is the State house, and it undoubtedly influences the rest of the building done here.”
“Fundamentally it's a well-built house, and the average person can't do better than to go to the State Advances Corporation, take one of their standard plans and go along with it.
“At the same time, while the State house has solved a housing problem, it has created another, quite different one—that of making a uniform, characteristic New Zealand house, and where there are many of them, of making entire housing areas appear monotonous and uniform.”
Mr Scott, in his many years of planning houses for other people, has only built one for a Maori.
“I'm the wrong person to ask about Maori housing,” he admits. “In fact, I don't think that there is a right person to ask such questions of. It's assuming, after all, that all people of one race want to live in the same sort of house and that just isn't true.
“If one can generalise, one could say that the Maori tends to live in one room more than the Pakeha—that a medium sized kitchen and living area with a number of little bedrooms around it doesn't always make sense to Maori living.
“In general, the Maori may be best suited by a larger centre-of-living space—but I don't want to lay down a law about it—I'll leave that to the department.”
Model of Maori Community Centre, designed for the Raukawa Tribal Executive Committee to be built in Palmerston North. Some of the walls of the model have been left off to show the internal arrangements. The committee has been collecting funds for over three years in order to proceed with the work; and a great deal of money was raised in a spectacular Queen Carnival right through the Raukawa tribal district last year.